Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syrian Regime, Russia Stop Raids on Idlib | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Residents inspect a site damaged by an airstrike in Hafsarja, in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib province, Syria May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

Beirut– After 11 consecutive days of heavy raids, Russian and Syrian regime forces stopped their air strikes over Idlib governorate which began to enjoy some calmness since Friday-Saturday midnight.

Experts believe that the raids had stopped following several “international pressures exerted on Moscow especially after the Russian war planes destroyed medical centers.”

However, a Free Syrian Army commander considered the calm situation to be temporary because warplanes are busy with Badiya battles and trying to stop ISIS terrorists from advancing in east of Homs.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), after over 1500 raids during 11 consecutive days on Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces, Russian and regime raids had stopped and the areas have been witnessing calmness since after the midnight of Friday – Saturday,

The SOHR documented that the intensive raids started on September 19, 2017 killing 197 citizens at least, including 53 children and 47 women in the areas of Khan Shaykoun, al-Tamanah, Jarjnaz, and other areas in Idlib countryside, as well as al-Madiq Citadel, al-Lataminah and the northern and the north-eastern countryside of Hama.

In addition, 68 fighters of al-Sham Corps were killed during a raid that targeted their headquarters in Tal Mardikh area near Saraqeb in Idlib’s astern countryside, while hundreds of the members of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic Party of Turkestan were killed and injured during Russian and Syrian air raids on their sites, according to SOHR.

These developments occurred following the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara two days ago. However, military and strategic expert Colonel Ahmad Rahhal believes that the meeting between the two leaders didn’t have that of an effect on the military operations. He stated that the day following the meeting, several raids occurred and killed dozens of civilians.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Rahhal expressed his belief that the decreased number of air raids is due to European pressures exerted at the UN after Russian warplanes destroyed most of Idlib’s hospitals and schools.

Idlib witnessed a bloody Friday after Russian and Syrian regime warplanes bombed Harem and Armanaz in western countryside, killing 36 civilians and injuring dozens others.

Free Syrian Army commander Abu Ali Abdulwahhab stated that the Russian and regime planes had left all nearby airports and headed towards ISIS’ areas. He denied links between the halt of the air raids and involvement of Turkish police saying they never entered Idlib.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that they never entered Idlib, but the policemen are near Bab al-Hawa crossing point and are ready to enter.

Activist Haitham Hamo stated that even though the bombing has stopped, civilians are worried the raids will occur again at any minute. He informed Asharq Al-Awsat that people are moving around the city cautiously and Civil Defense members had been active since Saturday helping civilians and recovering the bodies of dead citizens from under the debris.

An escalation in the bombing of medical facilities since September 19 has forced the closure and evacuation of hospitals throughout northwestern Syria, according to the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

In a statement issued, MSF confirmed that Hama Central Hospital has been targeted during an air raid, however no medics or patients were killed in the strike.

“On September 26, the MSF-supported Hama Central/Sham hospital was hit by an air strike at around 6:30 a.m. local time, putting it out of service,” read the statement.

Hama Central/Sham hospital is not primarily supported by MSF, but the organization had been supporting it with regular monthly medical supply donations since 2014.